August 2018 | August saw the highest number of Amazon Fires in Brazil in five years.

Due to an increase in illegal deforestation, August 2018 saw more fires in the Brazilian Amazon jungle than any other month in almost five years.



Brazil's MANAUS (AP) — Due to an increase in illegal deforestation, August 2018 saw more fires in the Brazilian Amazon jungle than any other month in almost five years.


According to Brazil's national space institution, 33,116 flames were discovered by satellite sensors. The months of August and September during the dry season are typically the worst for both deforestation and fire.


Additionally, it was the year's worst August for fires. That also applies to August 2019, when pictures of the burning forests horrified the world and garnered ire from European leaders. After just taking office, Bolsonaro was pledging to develop the Amazon and was upending environmental enforcement by arguing that criminals shouldn't be penalized.


The president of the extreme right has consistently played down the blazing fires since then. He claimed that the criticism is an attempt to weaken the country's farming sector on August 22, the worst single day for fire breakouts in 15 years.

Bolsonaro, who is running for reelection, stated that "Brazil does not deserve to be attacked in this way."


In Manaus, the largest city in the Amazon region, where smoke has been hanging in the sky for weeks, the fires are visible even from a few hundred kilometers away.


In the Amazon, fire is nearly always started on purpose, usually to improve the pasture for cattle or burn newly felled trees once they have dried up. The fires frequently get out of hand and spread to virgin forest areas.


According to Ane Alencar, coordinator of the Mapbiomas Fire project, which is run by a network of nonprofits, colleges, and tech entrepreneurs, blazes started spreading quickly in early August after a calm period with abnormally high rainfall.

"The rate of deforestation is high. Alencar explained this to The Associated Press during a Zoom interview, "That suggests there are numerous fallen trees ready to burn." The intensity of the fire season will increase in September.


This year's Amazon fires burned almost 20% of formerly forested land. According to a study by the Brazilian non-profit Center of Life Institute based on NASA's Global Fire Emissions Database, some of it is within protected zones that land speculators target.

One instance is the protected area recently deemed unconstitutional by a state court in Mato Grosso's Cristalino II State Park. The state attorney general's office challenged that verdict, but the legal voiding appeared to allow deforesters carte blanche, causing a wave of devastation. According to the Center of Life Institute, despite the presence of firemen, fire has devastated approximately 40 square kilometers (15 square miles) of the park in just the last few weeks.


Brazil's failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a result of widespread fires since land conversion accounts for about half of the nation's carbon pollution. Burning wood emits carbon into the atmosphere despite the Amazon rainforest's significant role as a carbon sink for the globe.

The Bolsonaro administration pledged to halt all unlawful deforestation by 2028 at COP26 earlier this year. Forest loss has reached a 15-year high so far during his leadership.


"Reducing deforestation is the most important thing to do if Brazil wants to reduce its carbon emissions. The second is to use less fire, according to Alencar.

Several private foundations fund the climate and environmental reporting for the Associated Press. Here is additional information on the AP's climate program. All content is the exclusive responsibility of the AP.


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